The Labyrinth: walking toward Christ… then away

Via the great Badger Catholic Blog, the facebook comments of apologist Karl Keating on the conspicuous Sinsinawa Dominican infatuation with labyrinths:

Just when you think the New Age movement has faded into 1980s oblivion, you learn something like this.The Sinsinawa Dominicans is a women’s order located in southwest Wisconsin, just across the Mississippi River from Dubuque, Iowa. Its Sinsinawa Mound Center includes a 750-seat auditorium, retreat facilities, meeting rooms that hold up to 400, and walking trails.The order sports not one but two labyrinths:”The labyrinth is an ancient spiritual tool, founded as early as 200 B.C.E. Its history includes use in Crete, Tibet, Greece, Celtic spirituality, early European art, and in the Christian tradition. It is a spiritual tool and an effective metaphor for life’s journey for believers of all traditions.””The indoor labyrinth is available for walking most days.” The outdoor labyrinth “consists of 6,000 limestone bricks placed end-to-end to form a perfectly round circle encompassing the symmetrical path walkways to the center. Walking the quadrants in this peaceful atmosphere among the natural surroundings enhances one’s meditation experience, usually exceeding expectations of the labyrinth.”(How appropriate that the Sinsinawa Dominicans were unable to bring themselves to use “B.C.” Too overtly Christian, I guess.)

 

Just when you think the New Age movement has faded into 1980s oblivion, you learn something like this. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>The Sinsinawa Dominicans is a women's order located in southwest Wisconsin, just across the Mississippi River from Dubuque, Iowa. Its Sinsinawa Mound Center includes a 750-seat auditorium, retreat facilities, meeting rooms that hold up to 400, and walking trails. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>The order sports not one but two labyrinths:</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>"The labyrinth is an ancient spiritual tool, founded as early as 200 B.C.E. Its history includes use in Crete, Tibet, Greece, Celtic spirituality, early European art, and in the Christian tradition. It is a spiritual tool and an effective metaphor for life's journey for believers of all traditions."</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>"The indoor labyrinth is available for walking most days." The outdoor labyrinth "consists of 6,000 limestone bricks placed end-to-end to form a perfectly round circle encompassing the symmetrical path walkways to the center. Walking the quadrants in this peaceful atmosphere among the natural surroundings enhances one's meditation experience, usually exceeding expectations of the labyrinth." </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>(How appropriate that the Sinsinawa Dominicans were unable to bring themselves to use "B.C." Too overtly Christian, I guess.)

 

 

 

Just when you think the New Age movement has faded into 1980s oblivion, you learn something like this. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>The Sinsinawa Dominicans is a women's order located in southwest Wisconsin, just across the Mississippi River from Dubuque, Iowa. Its Sinsinawa Mound Center includes a 750-seat auditorium, retreat facilities, meeting rooms that hold up to 400, and walking trails. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>The order sports not one but two labyrinths:</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>"The labyrinth is an ancient spiritual tool, founded as early as 200 B.C.E. Its history includes use in Crete, Tibet, Greece, Celtic spirituality, early European art, and in the Christian tradition. It is a spiritual tool and an effective metaphor for life's journey for believers of all traditions."</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>"The indoor labyrinth is available for walking most days." The outdoor labyrinth "consists of 6,000 limestone bricks placed end-to-end to form a perfectly round circle encompassing the symmetrical path walkways to the center. Walking the quadrants in this peaceful atmosphere among the natural surroundings enhances one's meditation experience, usually exceeding expectations of the labyrinth." </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>(How appropriate that the Sinsinawa Dominicans were unable to bring themselves to use "B.C." Too overtly Christian, I guess.)

 

When the Cathedral Parish went on our bus pilgrimage to sites associated with Venerable Samuel Mazzuchelli, OP, our trip to the motherhouse of this order of Sisters that he founded was preceded by a video about Sinsinawa Mound. I laughed out loud when they featured not only a big outdoor labyrinth but even a room size indoor one!

At the Mound they have also a labyrinth brochure, which I picked up that day, kept and have photos of below. Rev Lauren Artress of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, referred to and quoted in the brochure,  is an Episcopalian “woman priest” who is identified by fellow Episcopalians as a new-age pagan using labyrinths to promote “walking away from Christ.”  Read that link, it’s rather stunning–in episcopalianism, apparently they can get away with being quite open about the heresies that the liberal Catholic Sisters are more discreet about. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the way some are using the labyrinth, the inward journey is toward Christ and the outward journey is a “more spiritually mature” new-age, post-Christian trajectory. The Episcopal bishop of Grace Cathedral, Bishop William Swing, is founder of something called the United Religions Project (read the link and it will come together for you), which promotes religious indifferentism.
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Also: when I was researching for the article on the dissenting Sisters documentary Band of Sisters premiering at Sinsinawa Mound, I found an article on the labyrinth written by the main Sister in the film, Nancy Sylvester, for a group called “Giving Voice” which consists of the (few) younger liberal Sisters (digression: on their website I found that some of them hilariously got annoyed Oprah had the orthodox, habit wearing, large-amounts-of-vocations-getting Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist on her program, and wrote a letter pleading for Oprah to do a show with young liberal Sisters like them). Excerpt from Sr Nancy on labyrinths:
Imagine you are on a pilgrimage with your sisters in leadership. Let the Labyrinth be contemporary religious life in the US. As you begin your walk you become aware of the complexity of this world. You realize that the path you travel reflects the many social, political and religious movements that have influenced religious life these past forty years. You walk the ground shaped by feminist thought, the teachings of Vatican II, justice, peace, and ecological concerns, liberation theology, the new cosmology, modernity, and post-modernity, etc. Like the air you breathe you may not always be conscious of these forces but they are the context of religious life today.
[…]
At a certain point, you begin the journey outward from the center. Changed by your experience at the center you begin to feel the ground differently. You sense that the insights and energy of the emergent is challenging and reshaping these Labyrinthine ways. As you encounter members and associates you engage them sharing your instincts about the future. Together you enter in contemplative space and dialogue about the future. As the future is shaped some will continue the journey outward, others will need to continue walking toward the center. As leaders you are responsible for the common good and so you make sure the path to the center is safe and secure. You invite those walking toward the center [ie, those who continue to follow Jesus?] to care for each other and provide the necessary resources [ie, an incredibly patronizing view of the superiority of the one on the post-Christian path, as benevolent carer for Christian disciples?].
Yikes. Could that be what she means? Based on the distinctly post-Christian beliefs she expressed in the film, yeah it could be.
[Update:] thanks acardnal for the tip: The Catholic internet video news site Gloria.TV has a news video today that includes a funny bit on the Sinsinawa labyrinths and uses a photo that regular readers might recognize from my blog:

4 Responses to The Labyrinth: walking toward Christ… then away

  1. What really gets me about the labyrinth craze is that there’s no evidence that anyone, anywhere ever used a labyrinth for prayer, meditation, or anything other than decorative purposes. NONE. And while there are a few scattered around the world on floors, they are not remotely common, as one would expect them to be if they were really used by religions or religious orders. It’s completely invented.

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  2. Excellent job again, Elizabeth! Keep up the great work! I was told by someone that their parish had a labyrinth set up for a period of time and when that person’s child walked it they could feel something. Lord have mercy.

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  3. May I suggest that instead of using a labyrinth that the sisters meditate by sitting quietly before the Blessed Sacrament . . . perhaps with a rosary in one’s hands.

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  4. Good look at the New Age thinking behind this small bit of all the New Age ideas the Sinsisnawa Dominicans are promoting.
    I’ve said it many times before, the sound you hear coming from the cemetary in Benton WI is that of Venerable Samuel Mazzuchelli turning over in his grave at was is going on at Sinsinawa.

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